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Catalina Kitchen
Catalina Kitchen
David Rhein

The Essential South Bay Restaurants, Winter 2017

It's about time the South Bay's vibrant restaurant scene gets its due

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Catalina Kitchen
| David Rhein

Exciting things have been simmering in the South Bay lately. Just as Downtown Los Angeles has seen a true culinary rebirth over the past decade, so has its less-talked-about neighbor located only twenty miles to the south. In recent years, the Beach Cities have received a fair share of buzz thanks to the growing empires of several big-name chef/restaurateurs, but many of the southland institutions that represent one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the United States still go overlooked.

The South Bay has the second highest population of Japanese-Americans in the country, a demographic that lends itself to a thriving landscape of Japanese cuisine. Of course, you'll also represented is a large population of Korean, Indian, and Latino cultures that contribute to the vibrant culinary diversity of the area. Here now, the essential South Bay restaurants, presented in alphabetical order.

Added: Catalina Kitchen, Saigon Dish, Inaba, Uncle Bill's, The Kettle, Phanny's, Baja California Fish Tacos

Removed: Dia de Campo, Pho Consomme, Sausal, Steak & Whisky, Ercoles

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Abigaile

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Restaurateurs Jed Sanford and Tin Vuong’s well-regarded gastropub Abigaile has made itself an important addition to the Hermosa Beach dining scene. The church-turned Black Flag rehearsal space-turned restaurant has a menu as diverse as the venue’s storied history – there’s smoked pork confit pop tarts, a riff on bibimbap, and even a selection of house-brewed ales.

Addi's Tandoor

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Lucky for South Bay denizens, Redondo Beach houses one of LA’s top Indian restaurants, Addi’s Tandoor. The strip mall restaurant feels rather upscale, and even takes reservations. Highlights from the Goan menu include eggplant baigan bharta and seafood dishes.

Al Noor

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Al Noor has received its fair share of media attention, with Jonathan Gold giving it a few shout outs through the years, and Eric Greenspan raving about its garlic naan on the Food Network. Eater readers and Yelpers alike seem to agree with the critic and the chef, definitely making it a candidate for one of the best Indian and Pakistani restaurants in not just the South Bay, but the entirety of Los Angeles.

Baja California Fish Tacos

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The South Bay may not have Ricky’s Fish Tacos, but it does have Baja California Fish Tacos, a strong seafood contender located in Lawndale. With sub $2 tacos and a myriad of ceviche and affordable snacks, it’s easy for this no-nonsense eatery to become a standby in your restaurant rotation.

Catalina Kitchen

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There is little argument that Terranea’s Catalina Kitchen is the most lavish brunch in the South Bay. With a newly remodeled interior that flows from the open kitchen to expansive patio, stunning views of the Palos Verdes bluffs, and extensive brunch offerings that include everything from a sushi station to seafood buffet, the restaurant makes any meal feel like a quick getaway.

Cho Dang Tofu

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This Torrance strip mall tofu soup house has become a local gathering place for many local Korean families. The rich soup is arguably the best in town, and comes with a solid selection of banchan that includes excellent cucumber kimchi and bean sprouts.

Coni'seafood

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This Inglewood restaurant is the master of shrimp in all preparations – fried, sautéed, cut into ceviche marinero, or left whole for shockingly bright and spicy aguachile with a vibrant jalapeno puree. But the real star here is the pescado zarandeado, whole snook coated in an umami-rich paste and shaken over coals.

Fishing with Dynamite

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Chef David LeFevre’s seafood-centric follow up to Manhattan Beach Post is a strong sophomore act. The tiny 35-seat restaurant sports ultra cool beachy vibes, making it one of the most perpetually packed restaurants off Manhattan Beach Boulevard. Here the seafood is super fresh (don’t miss the Peruvian scallops), the new school dishes like the Koshihikari rice are innovative and downright delicious, and the cocktails wash it all down nicely.

Guh-Mok Korean BBQ

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This Korean barbeque restaurant offers the best hits of Korean cuisine. There’s meat grilled tableside, an extensive offering of banchan, and a wide variety of classic soups. The spicy shredded beef soup is not to be missed.

Hikari Japanese BBQ and Grill

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Lomita gem Hikari offers the teppanyaki experience everyone should be having. There’s plenty of high quality, meat-sweat inducing cuts cooked on charcoal grills tableside, with beer-friendly small plates perfect for sharing.

I-naba restaurant

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This humble strip mall Japanese establishment is an understated but excellent all-around restaurant with a few tricks up its sleeve. First, it's a part of the group that makes the amazing noodles at Ichimiann, so the soba and udon are about as good as you can get in L.A. Second, there's a super affordable tempura omakase, with a parade of freshly fried vegetables, meats, and seafood for a very reasonable price. And if those two things aren't interesting to you, there's everything from raw fish to other prepared plates to please any palate. —Matthew Kang

Ichimi Ann Bamboo Garden

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Boasting some of the best soba noodles in town, this tiny shop in Old Town Torrance doesn't just do simple cold zaru soba. The creative bowls, which mix everything from mushrooms to seaweed to mountain yam, come in cold and hot varieties, making this one of the most delicious (and healthy!) eateries in South Bay. Cash only.

This refined restaurant in Torrance has arguably the best tonkatsu in town, with a variety of cuts and near perfect execution. But the menu doesn't stop there. With izakaya-style comfort fare, Kagura has something for everyone, from weekday date-goers to business dinners.

Little Sister

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Chef Tin Vuong has honed his craft mastering the myriad funky, spicy, and sweet elements that characterize Asian cuisine, and has put it to good use at Manhattan Beach’s Little Sister. The masculine space with subtle odes to the Beach Cities’ punk rock roots foreshadows the bold flavors of the Pan-Asian menu. This is fusion fare, but not in the dumbed-down sense. Each dish skillfully pulls flavors from across Asia in a manner that is extraordinarily complex. Don’t miss the ma la beef tartare or the salt and pepper lobster.

Love & Salt

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There has been much ado about Michael Fiorelli’s Italian-inspired California eatery. Backed by longtime Manhattan Beach restaurant owners Guy and Sylvie Gabrielle with desserts by Rebecca Merhej and cocktails by Vincenzo Marianella, the concept has all the makings of a great restaurant. And great it is. There’s the requisite charcuterie and small plates, but you’re really here for the skillful wood-fired pizzas and rich pastas. Be sure to order the outrageously delicious bone marrow cavatappi.

Manhattan Beach Post

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The opening of Manhattan Beach Post marked a huge catalyst for the South Bay dining scene. Chef David LeFevre cut his teeth working under Charlie Trotter, and after cooking around the world, scored the executive chef role at the Water Grill. LeFevre was one of the first big-name chefs to break ground in Manhattan Beach, opening M.B. Post back in 2011. Since then, the South Bay has seen a true renaissance, in large part due to M.B. Post and those outrageously delicious bacon cheddar biscuits.

mar'sel

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Terranea Resort’s fine dining establishment on the bluffs of Palos Verdes may be a trek for most, but after being seated at a table with stunning ocean and cliffside views, there’s no doubt that the trip was worth it. Newly appointed chef de cuisine Andrew Vaughan is continuing the restaurant's tradition of blending French culinary technique with Spanish style using locally sourced ingredients to create seasonal selections like poached John Dory with hand cut nasturtium pasta and uni on toast.

Otafuku Noodle House

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This bustling izakaya on a lonely stretch of Gardena boasts some of the best pub fare in town, from noodles to yakitori to classics like agadashi tofu. Prices can be a little high, but you'll be rewarded with excellent quality from the kitchen.

Phanny's

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If you’ve ever been hungover in the South Bay, you’ve probably been to Phanny’s, Redondo Beach’s go-to for perfectly crafted breakfast burritos. And if you’re not hungover, it’s worth a drive to pick up the egg-filled behemoth that’s served all day. Walk a few short blocks to the beach, unwrap your burrito, and enjoy the best that the Beach Cities has to offer.

Redondo Beach Crab House

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The Redondo Beach pier isn’t quite as glamorous as its Beach City neighbors. However, walking down the pier is a serious dose of nostalgia for many South Bay locals. Recreational fishermen still line the rickety boardwalk, and tanks of live seafood still serve as billboards for restaurant offerings. One such restaurant is Redondo Beach Crab House, where live crab is served up steamed with views of the ocean below.

Saigon Dish

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This strip-mall gem in Lawndale is the go-to for Vietnamese locals hankering for a steaming bowl of pho and bun rieu.

Simmzy's

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This open-air pub has just about everything you would want in an oceanside restaurant. There’s a rotating selection of craft beers, blue cheese fries, and some of the juiciest burgers in this part of town.

Sushi Chitose

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Angelenos have it pretty good when it comes to high quality sushi. However, when it comes to top-notch nigiri that doesn’t take a sizeable chunk out of your paycheck, options are often limited to, well, Sugarfish. Luckily for South Bay denizens, Sushi Chitose offers a value proposition that rivals the Nozawa empire, while providing a lot more options. The go-to is the $45 omakase with unbelievably fresh fish and expertly prepared rice. The $15 premium nigiri lunch special makes for quite a satisfying mid-day treat when supplemented by a spicy tuna roll that puts those mayonnaise-laden versions to shame.

The Arthur J

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David LeFevre and Chris and Mike Simms’ debonair steakhouse sports some serious retro flair – you’d have expect to see Donald Draper bellied up to the slick bar. Here the steaks stand up to the timeless design, with a deftly seasoned Wagyu and dry aged ribeye that are without question the best steaks in this part of town. Exceptional sides and a diverse list of expertly curated wines round out this ocean-side restaurant that is sure to withstand the test of time.

The Kettle Restaurant

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After a night of bar hoping up and down Manhattan Beach Boulevard, you’re likely to end up at The Kettle, one of the South Bay’s few 24-hour restaurants with an extensive menu that satisfies just about all of your late-night cravings.

The Standing Room

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One of LA’s most outrageously awesome burgers has been flying under the radar for five years now. The reason? Redondo Beach’s The Standing Room is hidden inside an inconspicuous liquor store. Sure you could be happy with a classic burger made with hand-packed patty and a side of parmesan truffle fries, but you’re really here for the infamous Napoleon, an absolute behemoth of burger topped with bacon, caramelized onion, smoked gouda, cheddar, American cheese, spring mix, a fried egg, fries, and a full braised short rib.

The Strand House

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It’s hard to argue with a glass-walled restaurant that boasts panoramic ocean views and offers market-driven fare that stands up to the gorgeous surrounds.

The Whale & Ale

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Owner Andrew Siber opened The Whale & Ale down in San Pedro back in 1995, and the British pub has become a staple addition to the neighborhood ever since. It’s worth a drive to the Southland for the restaurant’s standout fish and chips alone.

Uncle Bill's Pancake House

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There’s nothing quite like the quaint beach bungalow-turned pancake house Uncle Bill’s. The Manhattan Beach mainstay is quite the local hangout, with serious weekend lines. But when your morning flapjacks come with ocean views, who can really complain.

Yellow Fever

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Longtime Torrance staple Yellow Fever offers healthy Pan-Asian fare in the popular build-your-own format. Select a base of rice, noodles, or greens; flavors that range from the “Seoul” to “Kona,” then add toppings to create a bowl you won’t feel guilty eating.

Zam Zam Market

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The South Bay scored a huge win when cult favorite Pakistani restaurant Zam Zam Market closed its original Culver City digs and relocated to Hawthorne, quickly becoming the new go-to for some of the city’s best biryani and lamb pulao.

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Abigaile

Restaurateurs Jed Sanford and Tin Vuong’s well-regarded gastropub Abigaile has made itself an important addition to the Hermosa Beach dining scene. The church-turned Black Flag rehearsal space-turned restaurant has a menu as diverse as the venue’s storied history – there’s smoked pork confit pop tarts, a riff on bibimbap, and even a selection of house-brewed ales.

Addi's Tandoor

Lucky for South Bay denizens, Redondo Beach houses one of LA’s top Indian restaurants, Addi’s Tandoor. The strip mall restaurant feels rather upscale, and even takes reservations. Highlights from the Goan menu include eggplant baigan bharta and seafood dishes.

Al Noor

Al Noor has received its fair share of media attention, with Jonathan Gold giving it a few shout outs through the years, and Eric Greenspan raving about its garlic naan on the Food Network. Eater readers and Yelpers alike seem to agree with the critic and the chef, definitely making it a candidate for one of the best Indian and Pakistani restaurants in not just the South Bay, but the entirety of Los Angeles.

Baja California Fish Tacos

The South Bay may not have Ricky’s Fish Tacos, but it does have Baja California Fish Tacos, a strong seafood contender located in Lawndale. With sub $2 tacos and a myriad of ceviche and affordable snacks, it’s easy for this no-nonsense eatery to become a standby in your restaurant rotation.

Catalina Kitchen

There is little argument that Terranea’s Catalina Kitchen is the most lavish brunch in the South Bay. With a newly remodeled interior that flows from the open kitchen to expansive patio, stunning views of the Palos Verdes bluffs, and extensive brunch offerings that include everything from a sushi station to seafood buffet, the restaurant makes any meal feel like a quick getaway.